Contributed by Cape Mermaid Katie McCully (GP +5)
Growing up a competitive swimmer, it’s no coincidence that I love the water. I love swimming in pools, ponds and in lakes. I love catching waves at the beach and I especially like taking bubble baths to soothe my mind, body and soul. Swimming has been good to me, and it’s been good for my running. Swimming tones the body, improves cardiovascular health and even lengthens the muscles. Thank goodness, I’m not ready to shrink yet! Swimming also increases upper body strength which many runners seem to lack. Another benefit is learning how to pace better. Swimming forces you to hold a consistent pace due to the nature of rhythmic breathing. How many runners do you know that start off too fast? Swimming is for everyone, young and old alike, the very slow to the very fast. And by the way, the more you swim, the better you will get.
Case in point, my husband, Chris Novak. This past summer, I had him swimming across Herring Pond in Eastham 3-4 times a week. By mid-August he felt stronger, faster and more efficient in the water. He competed at the Timberman Triathlon and dropped nearly 7 minutes off his swim leg from his previous Timberman race and another 30 minutes off his total time (bike and run). Chris doesn’t love swimming like I do, but he gets how swimming helps his physical, mental and emotional well being. And even though I am part mermaid, I know it helps my running.
My injuries are few and far between and when I do get sidelined…I can always swim. In fact, this past summer I broke my middle toe during the Marshfield-Duxbury Triathlon. I couldn’t run for an entire month, yet still managed to post a great time at the National Aquathlon championships, which included a 10k run, with very little running under my belt. My swimming fitness carried me through that race. Swimming increases flexibility and promotes greater lung capacity. Swimming is an ideal form of active recovery for runners.
I know my pals in the CCAC love to log the long miles (think Crema and Howard, our fearless leaders) but sometimes those legs just need a break! My mermaid guide to running, however, includes more than just swimming. I’m a Pilates junkie and I also believe that weight training is a key essential for a long and successful running career. Working full time keeps me on a tight schedule. I do a 20 minute Pilates video, 5 mornings a week, which improves my core strength. Pilates also incorporates stretching. In addition, I lift weights twice a week, which tones and builds strength. It allows me to recover faster and run more efficiently. As a reminder, strength training increases lean muscle mass which decreases body fat.
I’m also an advocate of a proper warmup before running. I used to think it was just the aging athlete who was prone to injury, but coaching the Nauset High School girls cross country team has been a real eye-opener. Improper shoes, nutrition, hydration, and lack of fitness are all factors that lead to injury, but a lack of warm up seems to be the biggest culprit. A full 10-15 minute dynamic stretching routine followed by another 10-15 minute easy warmup run should be on the top of your list before every race.
As I wave my flipper and say goodbye, I’d like to leave you with a final checklist:
1. Do a proper warmup before all of your races
2. Don’t forget to incorporate a recovery day into your week
3. Eat well
4. Get proper sleep
5. Don’t run injured
6. Swim at least once every week
7. Vary your running workouts
8. Strength train
9. Think positive, Believe in yourself…Be happy
10. Keep your love life exciting…